Here in the U.S. we waste between 30 and 40 percent of the food we produce, but what are we doing about it?
Thirty to 40 percent is a pretty scary amount to waste, especially when food prices are on the rise and so many people aren’t able to feed themselves and their families. While we can do our parts as individuals to reduce food waste at home, there’s unfortunately food waste along the whole supply chain, from the farm to the supermarket to our plates.
Food waste is a systemic problem, and we waste food all along the chain from farm to table.
How the U.K. is Addressing Food Waste
The government here in the U.S. isn’t doing much to address our massive food waste problem, but last January, the U.K. launched a program aimed at cutting their food waste by 50 percent. The program combines education, better labeling, and supporting companies that are doing their part to reduce waste.
The education arm of the anti-food-waste campaign is called Love Food Hate Waste and combines posters and other public outreach with a website that’s chock full of information about the impacts of food waste and how folks can waste less food.
Over at Grist, Dana Gunders suggests some ways that we can start tackling our food waste problems here in the U.S. She points out that “you manage what you measure,” and suggests that we need to take a look at every part of our food production system to get a more firm idea of where we are wasting the most food. You can’t solve a problem until you identify what’s causing it, right?
The Problem with Use-By Dates
One cause of food waste that Gunders brings up is one that would be so easy to tackle right away: use-by dates.
Use-by dates aren’t the same as expiration dates, and food is usually safe to eat far beyond the use-by date on the label. Those dates aren’t standardized, and often food companies will use the date to estimate when the product will stop tasting quite as fresh.
So, after the use-by date, that loaf of bread might be a little stale, but you could have a few days or even a week before that bread becomes unsafe to eat. Stale bread might not be great on its own, but you can toast it or use it to make croutons or bread pudding that tastes just fine.
What About the Packaging?
The food waste that the article doesn’t talk about and that most folks don’t think about when we’re discussing this issue is packaging. Processed food and even produce so often comes in excessive, non-recyclable packaging that clutters our landfills and drains our resources. Opting out of over-packaged processed food is one way to cut your food-related waste that I wish were more part of the discourse.
What do you guys do to reduce your own food waste at home? Let’s share ideas and suggestions in the comments!